As many of you might know, or could have guessed, I’m rather disappointed with the lack of participation that we’ve had over the last few years where the Megala Antinoeia is concerned. While the poem that Finnchuill did was (and still is!) lovely, and would have been a very strong contender for a prize even if there had been other entries, the “win by default” due to a lack of other entries is never a good situation to be in, and is most certainly not in the spirit of a good ol’ Greek agon, of which the Megala Antinoeia’s games in the modern period are supposed to be, just as they were in the world of late antiquity.
[I'll also just say that Finnchuill's poem and mine seem to be tapping into something that is afoot presently, as I think each of them is equally reflective of a different, and perhaps more mature, sensibility regarding this god and the many other divine beings associated with him, as well as his cultic history and modern practices, which has in this case manifested itself as a light-heartedness and a familiarity and a bit of humor, which is not based on irony or jadedness, nor on sentimentality. With devotional work, the latter might tend to be a favored default all too often, or something so piercingly poignant that it can then seem stilted or artificial to those who don't know the subject and the context. It's true, sometimes you want to feel pierced through the eyes into the heart by a gigantic barbed spear when you read a poem like this; but sometimes, too, it's more appropriate and enjoyable to notice the suggestively-shaped fruits in the bowl on the table, and to laugh at them instead. I don't think that metaphor applies 100% to either of our poems this year, but nonetheless, I hope you understand what I mean...!?!]
Sometimes, though, it may just be a matter of “too much to do” or “poor planning” that prevents someone from having the time to write something, and then the fear that if one throws something together in five minutes, it might not be worthy. Don’t discount the sincerity of efforts that are not hours-long in duration, though: often, the Muses are kindest to those who enjoy their presence in concentrated moments rather than leisurely hours. The most important thing with the Megala Antinoeia, and pretty much everything else involved in the life of a devotional polytheist, is to do it, and to do something. If I let the fact that we don’t yet have a temple, that I don’t yet have all of the original texts translated, that I haven’t yet read all of the books, or that I am not in any way perfectly suited to be doing some of the work that I am stop me from actually attempting any of the work, then I’d literally have nothing to show for all of the years I’ve put into this. If I can do this, there are people who are far more intelligent, creative, skilled, and spiritually-inclined than I am that can do at least something, surely…
So, perhaps it’s just a matter of time and its lack of availability. Very well, then…
It seems that one possible solution is to lighten the burden by sharing the effort, and in that regard, the present post (and the one which will follow it) is being made in order to elicit a communal response for devotional purposes. In each of these posts, I’d like to ask those who wish to participate to add to a set of communal hymns for Antinous. In this, I have to say I’m taking no small amount of inspiration from Sannion, who has been successful with such efforts with the Thiasos of the Starry Bull as well as at other times in the past few years.
There are two options for getting involved with this, and I suspect the present one will be the less-popular one; however, over the last few days I’ve also had experiences that suggest it is best to take into account that some people thrive equally well, if not better, in situations where they have a definite framework and rules and guidelines as they might in situations where things are more open-ended. So, to the former first…
The present blog post’s comments should be used to add to a communal hymn for Antinous that is more formal, and the form that we’ll be using is one of the most challenging poetic meters: terza rima. This involves lines that are usually around ten syllables in length (though eleven or twelve can work, too–we’ll go with that in this case), and which are in units of three lines. The first and the third lines have perfect end-rhymes. The end-word of the second line, however, then gives the end-rhyme of the next three-line unit, so that the result is the first three-line unit has only two rhyming lines, but then every other end-word has three lines that rhyme which alternate, etc.
So, as an example, you might have the following in the first six lines of a terza rima poem:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ light,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ mark,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ night,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ dark,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ black,
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ stark…
…and then the next set of lines would rhyme with “black,” etc. You get the idea, I think…This is the verse form that Dante used for The Divine Comedy, incidentally.
For our poem, I’d like to also set the following rules: you can write up to nine lines at a time, but also no less than three; and also, no end-rhymes of “orange” for the second line, folks! (Or “mountain,” because the only perfect rhyme for that is “fountain,” so unless it’s your opening lines, that won’t work!)
So, to connect a bit with our friend Dante, here’s an Antinous bust from Florence:
And, to make it fair, I’ll also start the thing out to get you going. BE CREATIVE! Don’t feel too limited by what is known of Antinous’ mythology and biography already–if Antinous lives among us and is still a divine reality (which, if you’re reading this, you probably agree on that, at very least!), then he’s a dynamic one that can take all sorts of forms and appearances and do all kinds of activities that we never would have expected. Give it a go, then: you know you want to!
We’ll come up with a title later…
Sing, O Muses from every spring fountain
of the beautiful Bithynian boy,
the joy of the nymphs on each sloped mountain,
and of the sharp hunting darts he’d deploy
against the panoply of four-legged beasts
and his courage which drowning can’t destroy.